Monday, January 4, 2010

Making a Habit of New Year's Resolutions

by Kelley Lindberg

So, how are those New Year’s resolutions going? Mine are going… um… hang on a minute. I have to go wash the potato chip grease off my fingers… OK, I’m back. Well, my resolution to cut back on potato chips isn’t going too well. And my resolution about keeping the house clean? Yeah, that hasn’t gone very well, either.

The big one, though, is about trying to use my time more efficiently. Right. That’s a bust, too. I’m trying to cram some exercise into my schedule, and it’s taking way too much time away from everything else, so I can tell it’s going to get dropped pretty soon, and I’ll be right back to complaining about my inefficient but familiar routine.

I’m not sure why I bother thinking about resolutions. My habits are old and ingrained, and I don’t change until I absolutely have to. And that generally means lives have to be at stake. I don’t think I’m alone in this.

That’s why changing a family’s eating habits and diet because of newly discovered food allergies is so challenging. But guess what? Most of us successfully do it. Why? Because lives really ARE at stake.

But there’s something good about habits, too. Although it may take a while to establish a new habit, once you have, it becomes just as easy to maintain as the old habit was. It eventually works its way into our routine, and we once again find ourselves on autopilot, flying through our day with the new habit firmly in place.

When we first learn that we have to eliminate something like milk or eggs or wheat from our diet, it feels like an enormous earthquake ripping through the landscape of our lives. But we have no choice but to pick up the pieces and start to rebuild. Soon we’ve found new brands that are safe, new recipes that we like, new ways to add a substitute nutrition source back into our diet. In a month or two, we find that the aftershocks have lessened to the point where we go entire days without noticing them. Another month or two after that, and we’re cruising in the fast lane again, with most of the new detours familiar now and well-marked.

That new eating habit is now a part of us, just like our old ones were. And when we stop to look at how far we’ve come, we take a deep breath and feel pretty good about ourselves. So if you’re just starting out on a new diet, whether it’s because of food allergies or other health goals, take heart. It looks hard at first, but you know deep inside that you’ve created habits before. You can create this one, too.

I keep telling myself that. And you’ll be proud of me – I didn’t eat as many potato chips today as I usually do. Maybe there’s hope for those other New Year’s resolutions, too.

Let me know how your resolutions are going!

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